I visited Eastern Bhutan with 3 other friends and family on a custom tour with WindHorse. It was my 2nd time going with WindHorse. The first time I joined the 13-day Drukyul Walking tour and I was mesmerized by the landscape and pristine beauty of Bhutan. So I decided to come back to see Eastern Bhutan which is known to be less touristy.
Going on a tour with WindHorse one was assured the top quality of service. WindHorse prepared everything from how-to-prepare, what-to-pack, visa to greeting and touring without a hiccup. I enjoyed very much emailing with Jambay, preparing for the Bhutan trips.
We entered Eastern Bhutan from Guwahati, India. We got transferred by car from Guwahati to the border town of Bhutan, then we were handed over to the Bhutan tour guide. Due to a strike at the border of India, the WindHorse van could not reach Samdrup Jongkha on time to pick us up. The tour guide Sonam had to go by taxi all the way to Samdrup Jongkha to meet us at the time we reached the border. We were so happy to see Sonam although the van did not arrive on time. Thanks to Sonam for arriving Samdrup Jongkha on time for us.
Sonam took care of our visa at the border. Since the Windhorse van had not arrived, Sonam got us a taxi to get to the hotel. The Windhorse van arrived the hotel just a little bit after us. What a relief !
Eastern Bhutan is very low key and so much quieter with very few foreign tourists at the time we were there. Easter Bhutan is at a lower elevation thus has a subtropical weather and warmer. What stood out of Eastern Bhutan are those small villages, like Wamrong where we stopped for lunch on the day we drove from Samdrup Jongkha to Trashigang. Life was simple at those small towns
We visitied Trashigang, Trashigangtse, Rhadi, Yongkola then drove to Jakar. We visited monestaries and schools. We watched a football game at an elementary school. What a lovely experience in Bhutan.
Yongkola is a paradise for birding. I chose to stop in Yongkola not because I am a serious birder (in fact I know nothing about birds) but because I wanted to stay deep in the forest. Due to our choice to stay in Yongkola we were mistaken for serious birders and got laughed a lot on how well we were prepared for bird watching (with no bicular :-)). Yongkola is very remote, beautiful and quiet. It was exactly as I imagined. We took a long walk in the very early morning to spot birds. The air was very cold, crisp and fresh. The walk was actually on the National Highway, passing through a deep forest. Only bird chirping sounds broke through the silence of the forest. Our tour guide Sonam was very serious in spotting birds to show us but we were just happy walking on such a peaceful morning.
I was most excited when we drove from Yongkola to Jakar, on the zigzagging highway. That part of the highway was my favorite section. The scenery was outstanding. I was so excited seeing snow as we approached Thrumpsingla pass which is the 2nd highest mountain pass of Bhutan. As I love cold weather and high elevation, the snow in Thrumsingla pass really excited me. We stopped and walked out in the snow. Our tour guide Sonam and our driver Dawa hung prayer flags. It was a memorable moment.
Since I liked Jakar so much from my 1rst trip, I chose to come back to Jakar again in my 2nd trip. After the 2nd trip, I still vote Jakar my favorite destination in Bhutan due to its high attitude, beautiful and pristine scenery. As Jakar is far from Paro, it is still not yet inundated by tourist as in Western Bhutan.
Our original itinerary for Jakar was to do sightseeing and visit monasteries. However Sonam came up with a brilliant idea of giving us an introduction to horse riding in Tang valley instead. At first no one seemed to be excited about the suggestion. But the horse riding adventure turned out to be the highlight of the entire trip. Although I had some difficulties with my stubborn horse, I had to admit that horse riding was the greatest adventure. Despite the challenge of being a newbie, the ride was wonderful across beautiful meadows. The scenery up high was gorgeous. Thanks to Sonam for such a wonderful recommendation and making the effort selecting the right horse for each of us. To me, the horse riding adventure was the best event of the trip.
After Jakar, we flew to Paro, and met with another WindHorse tour guide, Tampas,, who gave us a short tour of Paro. The following morning Tampas took us up to the Tiger Nest. Learning from my prior experience, I recommended to start the climb early to avoid the heat and crowd. It was the best decision to start at 6:30am.The cold air in the morning made the walk up to the Tiger Nest so much easier. We completed the round trip in 6.5 hours at almost 2:00pm.
We concluded our private tour of Bhutan in Paro.
Sonam was very funny, knowledgeable and did not miss anything from the smallest facial reaction to hints of complaint from the customers. Sonam was an experienced horse rider and a good birder.
Tampas was also great. He carried our bottles of water and clothing in his backpack, going up and down the Tiger Nest. Thanks so much, Tampas.
I want to leave the best for last: our driver, Mr Dawa, always with a smile on his face, was the most gentle person who helped us a lot with our luggage and food on picnic days.
WindHorse service is always outstanding. One cannot expect less.